Essential Health Info

Hiccups: Everything you need to know about Hiccups


Hiccups: Everything you need to know about Hiccups

Hiccups are the brief spasm of the diaphragm muscles. They occur when there is a momentary blockage of the air intake. Most hiccups last for only a few minutes, but in cases where they continue for more than 48 hours, you should see a doctor.

Chronic hiccups can be a sign of an already underlying medical complication. You should see a doctor in such an instance. Causes of hiccups range from simple day to day activities such as eating too fast to complicated medical complication such as kidney failure.

They are rhythmic meaning that intervals are constant and can occur individually or in bouts. There should be no cause for alarm, as they resolve themselves within a few minutes. Men are more likely to experience hiccuping as compared to women. Babies too experience them mostly when feeding. You should change positions frequently When feeding the infant.

What are the causes of hiccups?

As stated above, simple activities or underlying medical complications can cause hiccuping. Nature at which they occur is not yet known, but the following events are highly associated with hiccups.

  • Eating too fast which can cause one to swallow air at the same time resulting into a hiccup.
  • Drinking too many alcoholic drinks and other carbonated drinks such as soda can trigger them.
  • Eating a lot of spicy or fatty foods can trigger them.
  • Chewing gum and smoking can cause someone to swallow air leading to hiccuping.
  • Presence of gas in the stomach which presses against the diaphragm.
  • Prolonged stress and anxiety can also trigger short-term or chronic hiccups.
  • Liver infections.
  • Meningitis, the brain tumor which affects the central nervous system and renal failure are reported to trigger hiccuping.
  • Conditions such as diabetes, hyperglycemia, and hypoglycemia that affect the metabolism.
  • Respiratory complications such as pneumonia and asthma.
  • Noxious fumes also trigger hiccuping.
  • Hiccups occur in babies after coughing or crying.

How can you prevent hiccuping?

Most hiccups will disappear after a short period. But you can take the following precautions to avoid them.

  • Avoid eating too fast. Eat bit by bit and in moderate amounts.
  • Avoid too much alcohol intake. Alcohol accelerates the rate at which hiccuping occurs. Also, check on your carbonated drinks intake.
  • You should also avoid abrupt changes in temperature.

Which remedies are available to stop hiccups?

You can apply home remedies for brief hiccuping, but for chronic hiccups and prolonged hiccups, you need to see a doctor. The following are some of the treatment options.

  • Breathe in slowly and hold your breath for around 10 seconds, breathe out slowly. Repeat the procedure for about 4-5 times.
  • Lean forward to compress the chest. Compressing the chest is known to stop hiccuping at an instant.
  • Get a paper bag and breathe in and out in it. Make sure not to cover your face with it.
  • In a seated position, slowly bring your knees closer to the chest and hug them for about 2 minutes.
  • Quickly drink a glass of water
  • Pulling your tongue outside
  • Biting a lemon or placing a slice on your tongue then sucking it like a sweet.
  • Putting a couple of vinegar drops in your mouth
  • Let someone frighten you.
  • Use of smelling salts
  • Gargle with cold water
  • Place sugar on the far end of the tongue. After it has melted, swallow it. Repeat for about 2-3 times.
  • Hold your breath as you take hot water.
  • Apply gentle pressure to the diaphragm.

Most hiccups will cure themselves after a short time, but the above methods can be applied to heal those that are not chronic or long-lasting. Let’s look at chronic hiccups.

What are chronic hiccups?

Chronic hiccups are those that are prevalent. Mostly more than two months. They cause undesired changes in your life such as eating and sleeping. It is rare, and most cases considered fatal as it can cause death. What causes this type is not known, but underlying medical complications take the most significant share of the blame.

Causes of chronic hiccups

  • Underlying health conditions such as pneumonia can cause chronic hiccuping. Pneumonia irritates the diaphragm leading to persistent hiccups.
  • Damage or pressure application on nerves that control breathing can also result in chronic hiccups. Body changes such as the growth of tumors can lead to this.
  • Ailments that affect the central nervous system can accelerate persistent hiccuping.
  • Diseases that affect the gallbladder, large and small intestines, stomach and pancreas are believed to cause chronic hiccuping. These diseases include appendices, hepatitis and stomach ulcers.
  • People who have undergone brain surgery report occurrence of this condition. Patients who have undergone gastroscopy also report it. It suggests that certain surgeries trigger this condition.

Treatment for chronic hiccups

Medical intervention is the only treatment option for chronic hiccuping. A point to note is that due to their rare occurrence, medical procedures are minimal. In most cases, use of sedatives, tranquilizers and muscle relaxants is employed to disrupt spasm.

In severe conditions, you need surgery on the nerve which primarily controls breathing and the movement of the diaphragm.

 Hiccups in infants

Even though babies are less affected by hiccuping as compared to adults, when they occur, you should take the following precautions.

How to stop hiccuping in infants

  1. Burp the baby: American Academy of Pediatrics states that you should burp a baby every time they switch breasts. Burping helps get rid of excess gas.
  2. Use a pacifier: When your infant is hiccuping on their own, you can hand them a pacifier. As they suck on the pacifier, the diaphragm gets relaxed, and hiccups die off.
  3. Let them end on their own: often, hiccuping in infants will stop without you interfering. A point to note is that, if they become prolonged, you should consult a doctor.
  4. Use gripe water: Gripe water is a mixture of water and herbs. The herbs can include ginger or cinnamon. Gripe water though known for curing colic can be used on infants to control hiccuping.


Hiccups can be a nuisance when experienced when one expects them the least. Whenever they occur, try any of the above remedies to relax the diaphragm. You should also avoid those instances that will result in hiccuping. If you suffer from chronic hiccups, see the doctor for further treatment.



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